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Leechburg’s suspended police chief will remain in jail for the next seven weeks after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to soliciting sex from an undercover agent posing as a teenage girl.
Michael Diebold, 41, agreed to a deal with state prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to felony charges of statutory sexual assault, attempted statutory sexual assault, unlawful restraint and criminal use of a communications device. Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio sentenced him to serve nine to 23 months in jail followed by three years of probation.
Four of the original eight charges were withdrawn.
Diebold will be eligible for parole on January 28, 2019 because of time he has already served, said defense attorney Duke George.
“This case is particularly heinous because the perpetrator is a public official, sworn to serve and protect the community,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for the sexual abuse of children and my office will prosecute any offender to the fullest extent of the law, no matter who they are.”
The plea bargain finalized Tuesday required Diebold to plead guilty to lesser charges. He has been in jail since May after his $500,000 bail was revoked following allegations that he violated terms of his pretrial release for having contact with his then-infant son.
As part of the sentencing, Bilik-DeFazio also barred Diebold from using social media and the internet unless for work and said he can have no unsupervised contact with minors. As a convicted sex offender, he will required to register his whereabouts with state police for the next 25 years. The judge could also find Diebold is a sexually violent predator after an assessment is completed next year by the state’s sex offender board.
Diebold did not make any statements during court appearance.
George said after Tuesday’s hearing that Diebold never intended to commit a crime.
“He was on an adult internet site and he thought he was dealing with adults. He didn’t know the victim was 14,” George said.
Diebold will live with his mother and work at her appliance store in Leechburg after being released, George told the judge.
Diebold was arrested Jan. 5 after soliciting sex online from what he thought was a 14-year-old girl. The “girl” was an undercover agent for the state Attorney General Office’s predator task force.
Diebold was suspended without pay or benefits following his arrest. The borough had budgeted $51,043 for his salary this year.
Leechburg Mayor Wayne Dobos said Diebold will soon be fired and decertified by the state’s Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission.
“Because of Diebold pleading guilty to felonies, it’s the law that he be terminated as chief of police,” Dobos told the Tribune-Review following Diebold’s plea hearing in Greensburg.
Leechburg officials previously said they offered Diebold two chances to resign . He rejected the first offer and had not responded to a second one as of last month.
“Diebold won’t receive any additional money from the borough. He will only get the money he had previously put into his pension,” Dobos said.
Meanwhile, Diebold is in a legal dispute with his estranged wife Danielle Reinke over a GoFundMe account established after he lost part of his left arm in a fireworks accident in June 2017. Diebold said in court papers that Reinke controls the money, believed to be about $50,000.
Diebold filed a claim in Armstrong County seeking alimony and spousal support payments from Reinke. He said he doesn’t have sufficient income and assets for his needs, living expenses and legal fees.
Reinke was in court on Tuesday and said she will now seek custody of the couple’s child.
“He did this and that’s what I needed to hear. It makes closure easier,” Reinke said. “This man is now a sex offender for the next 25 years. My duty now is to protect my son from this sex offender.”